There are a lot of things we swore we would never do before we actually became parents. Give in and buy the kids a candy bar at the store, let them play tic-tac-toe with the sugar packets in a restaurant, exclusively breastfeed for an entire year, let them sleep sneak in our beds, own a gun. Did you have to go back and make sure you read that last one right? I would have. I hesitated when I wrote it. However, my job as a mother is to protect my children against anything, and this maternal instinct is stronger than any previous agenda I may have had before I knew what dangers would face my family in today’s world. I have started to hate turning on the news. I can only see so many heart-wrenching stories of school shootings and kidnappings before I feel an overwhelming anxiety every time I kiss my children goodbye. I walk through my son’s school hallways and notice that one of the teachers has covered all of the windows, another keeps her door locked, there are security procedures put in place. In the deepest part of my heart where my biggest fears live, I feel the worry of what if this isn’t enough. Even at the school family movie night I had a fleeting thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for someone with a vindictive mind, and there would be nothing I could do to stop him or her. These thoughts leave me feeling scared, paranoid, and worst of all…helpless.
My First Time at the Shooting Range
One of the local shooting ranges periodically has a ladies night. Not your typical of a night out with the girls for sure, but I was willing to give it a try. It sounded like a great way to face one of my fears (the gun itself…and what it can do), and see if I was even able to hold-much less shoot-something I was starting to think might protect my family one day.
I was extremely nervous as I drove to the range. The thoughts flying through my head ranged from “this is the beginning of taking control over my fear, this is becoming the only way I can protect my family” to “I can’t believe I am doing this, I shouldn’t be doing this, I never thought that I would do this, this goes against everything I said I would be and do and teach as a mother”. To say I was conflicted is an understatement. To make matters worse, I was early. I hate being early. Not early in bringing the kids to a school or a family function or anything, but early to a get-together. That night I was meeting a friend, and I told her I would be there at 5:30. I glanced at the clock and noticed I was about ten minutes early. I figured I would just sit in my car and play games or dink around on Facebook or whatever, but when I looked up there were three women looking right at me. My windshield faced the huge window of the location. Feeling silly, I got out of my car and slowly walked to the front door, texting my friend on the way in.I stood there fidgeting, trying to look like I knew what I was doing but really having no clue. I kept checking my phone and pretending to look at the surroundings but I felt leftout. I hate ladies nights. My friend texted back that she had just left, and I should sign us in. Not sure what else to do, I headed to the counter.
“So what are you shooting today?” the gentleman asked me.
I replied with a simple “ummmmmm, yes? Can you tell it is my first time?”
He chuckled and said “well, what is your goal in being here?”
Without a hesitation I responded “to protect my kids”. No question, no uncertainty, that was it.
And without a hesitation he responded, “then you want a 9mm.” He handed me three bags of ammunition without asking if I wanted the maximum or not, ran my card, and handed me my receipt.
Feeling slightly more confident, I grabbed my ear and eye gear and walked back to the front. I then glanced at the television and stared at the headline “Dorner shootout: ‘Hundreds of rounds’ fired during gun battle”. I looked down at the nowmenacing-looking bullets in my hand and shuddered. Trying to avoid the television, I walked toward the pink mace and called my husband to pass the time. I finally worked up the courage to walk to the gun display…more effective than the mace and certainly more intimidating. Finally my friend arrived and we chatted until we could get a spot on the range. We talked about what we would do if someone broke in our houses. We talked about why it is important to be familiar with guns in general, the benefits of having and knowing your own gun as well as a gun that may be dropped in chaos. We talked about gun safety around children. We talked about a lot of things I have never thought of before. We finally got our turn and she was confident as she walked to the counter and loaded her gun. I think I may have looked like a deer in headlights. The super sweet guy came over to help us, and she told him I needed a 9mm. I just used my womanly smile and probably looked goofy. Apparently I just assumed the bullets magically loaded themselves. The guy came back over when it became quite obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. My friend said she would load it for me, he said I couldn’t be a cheater and he would show me how (though I am apparently still a cheater because she has a fun little thing that helped me load it!). While he helped me, I kept getting dinged in the head and on my arms by my friend’s shell casings. Something you don’t think about if you don’t typically shoot I guess.
Gun loaded and ready, she showed me what to do with the thing. I put my body in the typical CSI stance and couldn’t decide what to do with my eyes. Do I close one? Look through both? What the heck was I looking for anyway? I was patiently told that if a stranger was in my house in the middle of the night I would probably be using both eyes to try to get a clear view. Duh.
She patiently told me how to load the gun, how to release the magazine, how to do the cool little move where you load the chamber and how NOT to point it at anything but the range and how to check to make sure there weren’t any leftover when I was done. I am even more confident now when I tell my son guns are not toys, and I don’t even really like imaginary ones. Those things deserve some respect for the damage they could do, and how easily they can do it.
I have only been shooting once before in my life. When my dad took me after the Chuck E. Cheese Shooting. He didn’t want me to be afraid to use a gun if I needed to defend myself. He wanted me to know what I was supposed to do with it if I found one. I guess some of his teachings stuck with me. I feel a little proud to say it didn’t take a whole lot of direction for me to get the hang of things, and the biggest direction dealt with how to load/handle the gun. Turns out I am not too bad. Turns out, once she told me what to do, I am a quick learner. Turns out my blogging mommy-buddy is a bad mamba jamba, and by learning from her, I am pretty bad mamba jamba, too! And now (because I don’t own a gun) I do know that if someone has one against me or others and we somehow get it away from them, I know what to do with it. Or kind of. It is like swimming. You know how to jump in, but you don’t really know how to swim without some more practice.
While taking turns, I noticed a few things. The women you “think” you are going to see at a gun range, aren’t really who you see. I saw senior citizens, teenagers, hot twentysomethings, moms, and even a cop’s wife. I also noticed that the older lady next to us kept getting nervous and when she did so she turned towards us, and her gun followed along with her. Yeah….kinda scary.
After we left, my friend and I got some appetizers and a drink, and I finally got to ask some honest questions from someone I know is very educated on the subject. I was surprised by my lack of knowledge. I was surprised to find out some things that disturbed me. I was surprised to find out some things were even more different than I expected.
Since I am not one hundred percent solid on my stance and am still in the education phase of things, I am not really in a position to say what I firmly believe. And either way, what I believe shouldn’t really have an impact on what you want to do. Education and thoughtful discussions are a good way to gather more information to make your own informed decision, yes. But I fully believe that this is a situation in which YOU must make your own decision. Don’t let anyone’s opinions make it for you. If you let anyone else make this decision for you that is your first mistake. Because if you don’t really want it you won’t respect it or learn how to properly use it, and if you want one and don’t get it you may have that regret one day.
My biggest fear of all is my children. God forbid an accident would ever happen. I know there are safeguards against this, but still accidents can happen. I used to think I would never EVER consider having one. My husband used to try to change my mind, then finally gave up. I still may not be, but at least we are having an open conversation about it. When we first talked about it, we hadn’t yet experienced Sandy Hook, the Aurora Theater shooting, and so many break-in and rape news stories we can’t even count. When we first talked, I didn’t have children I would die to protect. When we first talked, I didn’t understand. I didn’t try to listen. And I wasn’t in immediate jeopardy of having someone else make my decision for me. Yet, some of the feelings I had then I still have now.
So, for now, I am going to keep educating myself. I am going to keep learning what to do with something as powerful as a gun. I am going to learn how to respect it, how to use it for good and not evil, and ultimately I will make a decision that is good for MY family.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a risk. I opened my eyes and my ears to a very controversial and very important topic. I educated myself on just one of many ways to protect my children. And even more important, I ignored the fear of judgment that sat in my stomach when I thought about writing this. A fear that I didn’t even realize I would have. Everyone is so heated, opinions are more than viewpoints now. Opposing opinions are breaking up friendships and families, turning allies into adversaries, and creating a fear like I have never seen. I have done nothing to be ashamed of. All I did was learn more about something I knew little about, take the first steps in learning how to protect myself and my family, and taking a risk outside of my comfort zone. I empowered myself just a little bit. And that is worth writing about.
*Our guest author today is Vicki Little. Vicki is a wife and mom to two adorable kids that are the center of her world. You can read more from Vicki on her blog, Living In Moments, where her motto is “Life can change in an instant, stop on a dime, or take your breath away. Don’t miss a moment…“